Where should your child go to college? With approximately 5,300 colleges and universities in the U.S. to choose from, it’s not an easy choice for anyone. But if your son or daughter is the first in the family to go to college or your family has a lot of financial challenges, it’s even more important to find the right-fit college.

Why? College may take kids far from home or surround them with cultural mores and values they’re not comfortable with. If your child has to keep a job or take care of family, they may be dealing with more than a college roommate who is only concerned with their next final or party. Luckily, there are organizations out there to help kids like yours. There are a number of organizations dedicated to helping underrepresented, minority, low-income, and first-to-college students choose schools where they will feel supported and welcome (and that they will be able to afford). These organizations help students identify colleges and scholarships they can apply to, work with students on their applications, and offer mentoring support. Here are five organizations to look into.

  1. Strive for College is a free online service that pairs students with a mentor who they “meet with” regularly via monitored video chats and instant messaging. Mentors help kids through the college and financial aid application process. The nonprofit’s website boasts: “Over 90 percent of Strivers go on to four-year institutions, usually with low or no debt.”
  2. ScholarMatch was launched by writer Dave Eggers as a crowdsourced funding platform to help kids pay for college. Today, the organization also provides in-person and online support for teens from low-income families (annual income of $50K or less) who want to go to college. The website’s ScholarMatcher tool helps students sift through a list of 301 schools that the group has identified as offering, “superior resources, support, and outcomes for low-income and first-generation youth” to create their college application list.
  3. College Possible offers mentors for high school juniors and seniors from low-income families with in-person programs in a few cities in Minnesota, Portland, Philadelphia, Omaha, and Milwaukee and virtual programs for students living in other cities. Mentors work regularly with kids through their last two years of high school and as they transition to college. Juniors get help with SAT and ACT prep. Seniors get help with the application and financial aid process (including scholarships).

    The nonprofit makes two impressive claims: 98 percent of students are admitted to four-year college — and they’re four times more likely to graduate than students like them who haven’t had the benefit of a mentor’s guidance.

  4. The College Advising Corps is a nonprofit that supports first-generation students and kids from low-income families on the path to college by placing recent college graduates — who act as full-time college counselors — in underserved high schools. Check to see if your school is one of the 600 high schools in 15 metropolitan areas and states across the country with this program.
  5. College Greenlight is a free website that helps first-generation and underserved students with their search for colleges and scholarships. After answering a few questions about your child’s strengths and background, College Greenlight will send you emails featuring schools looking for kids like yours and scholarships and grants your child might apply for. College Greenlight is part of the college search website, Cappex.com, a for-profit company, so expect helpful emails about scholarships and schools to consider, but heads up: you may also receive marketing emails.

Want more? Check out this state-by-state list to find similar nonprofit organizations in your area.

As your teen makes his first list of schools and scholarships, don’t worry if it’s long! He will narrow it down as he learns more about each college and scholarship on his list.

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